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(SXSW 2012 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #743: Clock Opera

 
By on Friday, 23rd March 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Something startling about SXSW that no-one tells you: bands act as punters and you’ll often find yourself having a drink next to someone you’ve seen on stage earlier. Take, for example, Guy Connelly was stood next me as I was watching Slow Club at the Huw Stephens’ curated showcase that his band Clock Opera had just played 2 hours before. One of the highlights from their set that night was ‘Man Made’, quite possibly the only music video in all of creation to begin with a close-up shot of dentures. Enjoy the mad beats below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaWj1mhx35Y[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2012: Day 2 – Burning Ear showcase at Firehouse Lounge and Second Play Stage at the Omni – 14th March 2012

 
By on Friday, 23rd March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

A little-known fact for first-timers at SXSW: the bands you like are probably playing unofficial showcases and gigs at small, hole in the wall-type places. (This can be a real problem if you have an allergy to renting a car in an unfamiliar town and hate parallel parking, both of which apply to me.) It’s incredibly inefficient, but the only successful way I’ve found to discover these set times and locations is by paying attention to individual band’s Facebooks or Web sites that will say they’re playing this bar out of walking distance from downtown, a burger joint with shows for all ages or a hotel offering free booze, they’re showing up as someone’s special guest, etc. etc. etc.

Being in my position, I had the benefit (I think?) of being inundated by PR emails with lists of shows and more gig possibilities than could be imagined; from the mostly well organised lists, I spent hours before arriving in Austin coming up with alternate plan B and C lists that had cross-referenced the big book of official showcases (only listing nighttime showcases – not especially helpful) with the unofficial ones by day and night I knew of, just in case the shows I wanted to go to were rammed and I needed another place to go. I can say now with experience that you can plan all you want for your ideal day of acts but sometimes, you should just go with whatever feels right. Or is less of a walk. (Not kidding. After the second day I thought my feet might break off at my ankles and my back would break standing so much.)

What felt right to me for Wednesday afternoon was an unofficial showcase being put on by the Burning Ear blog at an unofficial showcase at Firehouse Lounge, a good-sized place that you might miss if you weren’t looking for its small marquee. I certainly did not expect the nice space there was when I entered. Unlike many of the showcases I attended, this one was not region-specific and had a nice mix of international bands. (Unfortunately, with a small place like this, there is no room for lighting rigs, so my photos didn’t turn out all that good.) Hooded Fang, a band whose humourous song ‘Clap’ is getting a lot of love on 6music, stood out to me as a band I should catch in a daytime showcase. Further examination of the line-up revealed hey, this is pretty damn good! Unfortunately, there was a bit of a scheduling conflict with another band I just had to see at a hotel – SXSW hosts what they called “Second Play Stages” where the bands perform stripped down sets in a hotel lounge – but I did manage to get in 4 bands before I had to leave.

Paula and Karol are an indie folk duo from Warsaw, Poland. Paula plays a baby accordion (seriously, it’s adorable and has hearts on it!) and Karol plays acoustic guitar, and both of them sing. They tour with mates on guitar and drums and have great harmonies. Sounds a bit like Slow Club, doesn’t it? Funnily enough, I saw them, their mates and associated people all lined up in the front row at Communion’s showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary 2 nights later, which made me go all warm and fuzzy inside. What punters probably don’t realise is that for the bands, this is often their big chance to see some of their contemporaries and the fact that these nice folks from Eastern Europe were able to experience Ben Howard and Daughter was a pretty amazing example of cross-culturalism.

I thought Paula and Karol were great – truly great pop and I just goes to show that SXSW can be a good place for new band discovery. Listen to their album ‘Overshare’ in full below and if you like it, buy it! I liked them so much – listen to ‘Calling’ and you will fall in love like I did – so it was with much sadness that I missed their set as part of a Polish showcase the next morning…but I overslept. Stuff like that happens at SXSW. And you’ve just got to pick yourself up and move on to the next band. (They confirmed with me that they will be performing at the Great Escape, so you all going to Brighton in May have no excuse to miss this talented twosome.)

The next band up was Dublin’s Minutes. Regular TGTF readers will recall that Luke first came upon the scrappy Irish trio opening for Flogging Molly at London HMV Forum last year; Luke also reviewed their fab debut album on Model Citizen Records, ‘Marcata’ (review here). By this time, the number of people inside Firehouse Lounge had gone up from 6 to about 20, which I took as a good sign that punters had heard of these guys. Oh my god. Despite the shy accents at the start, boy, did the Irish bring it. Lead singer Mark Austin, as he shredded his guitar as hard as he could, was a force like no other. Yowza. At that very moment I thought, I need to give that Luke Morton a hug for finding these fellas; as you should know, TGTF is a family and a team and I rely on all my writers for their expertise on sniffing out the next big thing. So many bands to sift through, so little time.

There was enough room for me to lean comfortably on a railing early on in their set, and this turned out to be a dreadful mistake: basically, Austin used this railing as a “road” down the side of the club, nearly taking me out on the floor with his guitar in the process. But I didn’t mind, and neither did anyone else. The punters ate it up. As they’ve just been announced for Tennents’ Vital festival in Ireland in August alongside headliner Foo Fighters, you can just already see them rubbing elbows in an Irish meadow with Dave Grohl.

Pretty appropriate that in 27 C+ Austin, an Oxford band called Jonquil, named presumably after the lovely yellow flower, should play next in the early days of a Texan spring. After getting over the weirdness that their player looks like a blonde twin of another bass-playing mate of mine, I settled in to listen to what they had to offer. Alert, I’m about to be critical: I can’t get over Hugo Manuel’s voice. Maybe that’s the intention? The vibe is vaguely New Wave-y Aztec Camera, but with a trumpet. Huh? And the songs aren’t that memorable. Dunno, maybe because they came after two very strong acts, I was left disappointed.

After getting my free cupcake (yes, there is free food at SXSW, provided you know where to look and be…early), it was time for Hooded Fang. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is such a cliché, but gosh, given the droll lyrical wit of ‘Clap’ (video below), I’ll be honest, I was surprised by the players. Their guitarist had been hanging out all afternoon, looking like a boffin that was nervously keeping to himself on a sofa in the back. I imagine they are one of those bands that works better in the context of a sweaty, packed out venue; while there were definitely more people in Firehouse by this time (I felt like I was knee deep in hipsters after getting unfriendly elbow jabs in my back), the energy level for the Toronto rockers just wasn’t there. I’m wondering if I’d have felt better and in the zone if Steve Lamacq was present.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in1AgZBQKZo[/youtube]

So I decided to cut my losses and leave in the middle of their set for a change of scenery. Completely so. The Second Play stages are a collection of gigs that I believe are organized by SXSW themselves, and they’re a series of gigs that are all acoustic and take place in the lobbies of major hotels in downtown Austin. As my schedule had been filling up, I was getting quite concerned that I couldn’t crow bar a gig from 10 for 2012 poll winners London-based band Films of Colour, until I happily came upon the Second Play schedule. Aha! Omni at 6 PM? I can squeeze that in! I snuck in through the back, slightly out of breath from running up a hill (spare me the Kate Bush jokes, please) to the Omni, where a helpful bellhop pointed me in the right direction.

What an unusual place for a rock show. Granted, it was an acoustic set, but still, where else are you sat down for a gig and a waitress comes over to ask nicely if you want something to drink or eat? To be fair, how often are you sat down for a gig anyhow? So I relaxed in my comfy chair and watch Films of Colour spout off beautiful renditions of their new single ‘Running’ (acoustic video here), their cover of David Bowie’s ‘Slow Burn’, and gorgeous newer song ‘Creature of Habit’. I would also like to point out at this juncture that Films of Colour is the second band we’ve tipped (that I’m aware of anyway) whose music has landed as incidental score on Made in Chelsea (the other being I Dream in Colour). So if you’re out there reading this, fine folk of E4, I must say, you have very good taste…

But in the words of Karen Carpenter, “we’ve only just begun”. Wednesday was about to go into full swing.

More photos (and in higher resolution too!) from these showcases can be viewed on my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2012 Video Interview: General Fiasco

 
By on Friday, 23rd March 2012 at 1:15 pm
 

One of the bands that I was absolutely dying to see at SXSW this year was Northern Irish band General Fiasco. We’ve written quite a bit about them here on TGTF and I’ve always loved their videos, but had I ever seen them live? Nope. So last Wednesday (14 March) I was treated to a double dose of GF, first with an interview in the lovely Austin sunshine, and then that night at the Northern Irish showcase, where they played alongside Derry’s Wonder Villains and #7 on our 10 for 2012 poll Cashier No. 9 (review coming soon; in the meantime read Cheryl’s 10 for 2012 profile on them here, my Bands to Watch feature on them here).

To expedite the posting of our interviews and to avoid lag times in transcription, we filmed video chats with the bands we met. Special thanks to Ed Blow for manning the camera on this one (I feel terrible as he’d never done it before and had a hand sprain afterwards); cheers for taking one for the team, mate! And if you’re wondering what that squawking was, there was a bird sitting in the tree directly above the band, and evidently he wanted in on the action – a bit of Austin wildlife flavour, if you will.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PikBvdfP-3U[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2012 Live Gig Videos: Keane preview songs from ‘Strangeland’ at Filter / American Rag Showcase

 
By on Thursday, 22nd March 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

Ah yes, didn’t you know I was an unashamed Keane fangirl? For those friends of mine who were allowed to see my schedule at SXSW for the week, all I got back was laughing and funny look at my schedule for Thursday afternoon (15 March). In red block capital letters, Thursday’s schedule began with “park myself at Cedar Street Courtyard / Filter and American Rag showcase to wait for Keane”. But seriously folks, when else will you get a chance to see this hugely popular mega band on an outdoor patio? Never, except at SXSW.

Keane – now a four-piece with the permanent edition of touring bassist Jesse Quin – played a shorter than normal set in this showcase, but four songs included in their performance are brand new songs that will appear on their forthcoming fourth album, ‘Strangeland’, out the first week of May. I filmed three – ‘Silenced by the Night’, ‘The Finish Line and ‘On the Road’ – along with set closer and fan favourite ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. Enjoy all the videos below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4pgys1GBhs[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIRg9cFTJ0I[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmUkjd7hWeQ[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8clpNcSg9k[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2012: Day 1 – Xtra Mile Recordings showcase at Latitude 30 – 13th March 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 21st March 2012 at 3:00 pm
 

Being the editor of a UK music blog, it seemed only fitting that my first night would end at the British Music Embassy’s home for SXSW, at Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard. To be quite honest, I was planning on an as stress free as possible first night, and when we were having a walk around, I flipped through my book to see with some shock that Frank Turner was playing a showcase there that very night. I expected to completely miss Frank in Austin, as the only official appearance I’d heard about was an invite-only party Wednesday night that I did not get an invite for, even though I asked. I’m really wondering who was invited to that party, but it’s just as well, as being surrounded by punters passionate about Frank Turner was probably better than hanging around stuffy industry types, yeah?

Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun was first on the bill, which was an Xtra Mile Recordings showcase put on in conjunction with AiM. Lockey, from Cheltenham, quipped that the rest of his band was home in England and since they were so jealous he was at SXSW, he wasn’t sure when he returned if he still had a band. I’m not as good of a judge of the singer/songwriter genre as Cheryl is, but I’d say Lockey is a pretty good sample, as the conviction in his singing was obvious. Despite this being his first trip to Austin, he had enough guts to climb down into the audience and perform with voice and acoustic guitar only, playing to a round of new fans.

The next band up is probably not new to most of you; I’d certainly heard of them before but had never seen them perform live. The Xcerts from Aberdeen cranked it up several notches on the awesome scale with their wild and crazy set, with singer Murray Macleod belting his heart out. Several times I expected his teeth and tongue to fall out of his mouth, as he was singing so hard, and maybe his legs to get dislocated for catapulting himself in the air, legs flailing like a rock star whenever possible. (They were so great, I made it a point to see another Scottish showcase that featured them on Friday.)

However, the energy in the club reached the boiling point when the next band, screamo Cardiff rockers Future of the Left, took the stage. I’ve seen their name on countless festival bills in the past – and sometimes confusing them with the Futureheads – so I was curious what they sounded like. Well my friends, if a small town American girl liking Future of the Left is wrong, I don’t want to be right. This really isn’t my genre at all – it’s too loud, too frenetic and too hard – but the raucous performance, spurred on by a primarily fanboy audience and combined with an at times blinding light and smoke show, was an incredible sight to behold and music to one’s ears, truth be told.

They even managed to play directly to the crowd when dedicating ‘Robocop’ to Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, threatening that if anyone at the show voted for him, they’d…well, actually they didn’t say, but I think the sentiment came through loud and clear. And from the people that were cheering in response to their threat, my guess is that the majority of SXSW attendees aren’t Republicans and/or are very progressive thinkers, so the equivalent I guess would be if We Are Scientists showed up at the Great Escape and complained about David Cameron. Way to endear yourself to the crowd.

After such a fired up performance from Wales, Frank Turner had his work cut out for him. He’s been enjoying an increasingly bigger and more devoted fanbase in the States (good on him), so it’s really not a surprise to see so many people crammed in to one place for the expressed purpose of seeing him play. How unlucky am I: both times I’ve seen Turner, he’s been solo and minus the Sleeping Souls, his usual backing band. But as everyone who has seen him knows, him being by himself doesn’t affect the performance at all. In fact, I’m imagining without a band, he can be more personal and I think it actually works in the singer/songwriter’s favour. He proclaimed half his songs would be the hits and the other half would be new songs. With nearly any other artist, a statement like that would be met with boos, jeers and possible physical confrontation. Not these fans.

One of the standout new tracks was ‘Tattoos’: it’s witty as hell, making fun of people’s tattoos that sag and fade as the years wear on, but with the prevailing message that even though you might not believe in what you did when you got those tattoos, you wouldn’t trade the special memories of those days for anything. I forget the exact line now, but there’s one part of the lyrics where Turner is emphatic, saying he would go back in time and get all the same tattoos all over again, because those memories are so important to him.

A song about tattoos is pretty appropriate for Austin; I never could tell if it was because there were so many music industry types at SXSW (who, as we all know, can be covered in tats as well) or it’s because all the Austin locals have tattoos, but nearly everyone I saw roaming the streets during this festival had at least one arm completely covered or at least part of a back with body art. (On my last day in town, I saw a girl on a bus with tiger stripes tattooed across her face and from the neck down. No joke.)

No tattoos for me so I can’t really relate directly to Turner’s sentiment, but I do share his feelings on never forgetting your best memories. As crazy as SXSW was, looking back at it now, I can smile about the people I was lucky enough to spend time with and saw gig and laugh about some of the accidental run-ins with celebrities. So with day 1 done and dusted, I left Frank Turner’s adoring masses – the venue was rammed so punters were spilling out on to the street – and headed for a couple hours’ rest before the onslaught of day 2.

More photos (and in higher resolution too!) from this showcase can be viewed on my Flickr.

 

SXSW 2012: Day 1 – Initial Impressions and Oberhofer at Hype Hotel – 13th March 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 21st March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Tuesday at South by Southwest (which will henceforth be referred to as SXSW) is similar to Roskilde and other festivals in that it’s the calm before the storm. People are settling in to the rhythms (no pun intended) of their new surroundings. That said, after you’ve spent most of your day travelling to “the Live Music Capital of the World” (yes, Austin have trademarked that as their official motto), you owe it to yourself to catch some shows. Committing to a lighter schedule in the midst of your jetlag is the way to go.

And this is probably good advice, as I was told Tuesday is the day most people come to claim their badges and wristbands. As explained in the preview, wristbands are really only supposed to be going to locals with Austin billing zip codes, though unfortunately I could overhear people about badges and wristbands being sold under the table or swapped based on physical appearance, e.g., “I’m looking for a blonde who will buy my badge at half-price”. (I know how desperate some people are to see certain bands. But seriously, not cool.) I was stood in line with hundreds of others in the wristband line. When you’re jetlagged, you’re tired and cranky. Props to the convention centre staff who were giving out bottles of water and bags of Doritos to keep folks from going postal.

I don’t know what happened but I guess the festival pass gods were looking favourably down on me, as I managed to be directed to the fastest moving wristband line and got wristbanded up and my camera tags for press on my equipment in less than 3 hours, so I’m not complaining. But be forewarned, prepare to queue everywhere – for credential pick-up, to get into venues, to get free tacos, etc. Come to think of it, I must have RSVPed to a bunch of brunches, breakfasts and lunches and I don’t think I got any free food, except from the kind woman at the door for the Music from Ireland Irish breakfast Friday morning at B.D. Riley’s who realised I was good people when I explained I’d seen the Northern Ireland showcase on Wednesday night. (Cheers Angela.) I’ll stop moaning now, as I’m sure you want to hear about the bands I saw on day 1…

After a relaxing dinner with a PR friend, we headed over to the Hype Hotel (venue sponsored by the Hype Machine) on Trinity. He had his wristband but I didn’t, so I expected a massive queue like all the others I’d seen around town. Again, I had unusually good luck, as when we asked security on a side entrance if that queue wrapped around the block really was where I was supposed to go, he handed me what I needed and shooed us inside. The Hype Hotel has a very cool vibe; it looks a bit like a warehouse, but it has amazing brick overhangs that give it character. The stage was big but not too big; it reminded me a bit of the Music Hall of Williamsburg except there wasn’t a balcony.

Sneaking in through the alternate entrance and effectively skipping the queue, we were able to catch most of Oberhofer’s exuberant set. Upbeat and full of energy, this was a great band to stick my toes into the water of SXSW, and good timing too: I saw Paul Lester just wrote about the Brooklyn band on his New Band of the Day feature last week, so now I can say, “nyah nyah, I saw them at SXSW and you didn’t!” But no, I’m too polite to be that obnoxious. But trust me, there were plenty of people I ran into who were doing just that and wanted me to dissolve into tears because I hadn’t seen Bruce Springsteen. (I’ve never been a massive fan of his, so missing him entirely didn’t faze me one bit. British indie bands, please!) I don’t really get jealous of this kind of person, as I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see the bands I have in all my years of blogging. I just laugh at them in my head.

More photos (and in higher resolution too!) are available on my Flickr here. Stay tuned for much more coverage of SXSW 2012 in the coming days.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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